If Next's Childhood menu represented the wistful memories of an 80s childhood, the 80s Week menu at EL Ideas this week is more like its older brother, the sarcastic teenager. Phillip Foss and his crew donned Bears jerseys the ultimate symbol of Chicago in the 80s and cranked up the early MTV-era tunes. But they didn't just go for fun, but easy, 80s references with the food (Gag Me With a Spoon of Caviar! Star Trek II: The Wrath of Consomme!) The most ingenious part is that they built their menu around versions from straight up to reconstructed and remixed of genuine 80s food. While some of it's naive or dated from our perspective, the 80s were the decade where our modern foodcentric world was born, and the EL team's tributes to Asian fusion, Cajun cooking, or the then-novel idea of mixing fruit and seafood makes 80s Week a fascinating excursion into the archeology of our own tastes. (Then there's the dessert course called "Like a Virgin," built around a cherry that pops.) Check out our man Huge Galdones' pictures of the menu, which runs through this weekend and occasionally has spaces become available, below.
Team EL, we want to know: who would win, Ditka or molecular gastronomy?
Philip "Jim McMahon" Foss welcomes the crowd, some dressed to the nines in down vests. Foss says the idea behind the menu was, "We're always looking forward, thinking forward— we needed a break to go backward."
Plating "Cold War," a dish featuring Ossetra caviar, "slices of smoked and salted Communist sturgeon," and frozen vodka-infused horseradish créme fraiche.
Crab Tower— a dish inspired by hotel cuisine of the era, featuring Dungeness crab with fruity accompaniments like mango and kiwi coulis. "In the 80s, everything was in a tower," Foss says.
Blackened redfish a la Paul Prud'homme. Foss told us the very beginning of the idea came from the chefs talking about Charlie Trotter closing. "And we were talking about 80s food, and that got us talking about some of the iconic dishes of that time, like blackened fish."
Lobster tails a la nouvelle cuisine— a small Asian-fusion dish on a very big plate.
Cedar plank salmon— but instead of the fish, it's the roe, with notes of cedar and a mustard gelée.
"Cocaine," served with a razor blade and a straw. It's actually flavored powders Foss got from Terra Spice, and so far, Foss says, no one's actually tried to snort it. "Up to this point it's been kind of these classic dishes from the 80s, and everyone's pretty quiet. Then I come out with powder on my face and go, 'Whoa, this is fucking awesome,' and suddenly the whole room is noisy and wild for the rest of the meal."
Buckwheat— roasted foie served with buckwheat groats and a huckleberry coulis. It's otay!
Rockin' the "woks."
Wang Chung: duck a l'orange with julienned Asian stir fry vegetables— and MSG, of course!
Plating "Where's The Beef?"
Where's The Beef— Loin of Beef with creamy chive mashed potatoes, garnished with Hollandaise.
Like a Virgin— cherry explosion with ground almonds.
Death By Chocolate— a tribute to Michael Jackson which combines dark, milk and white chocolate. "I have a feeling there will be more things like this," Foss answers when asked if he has more themes in the works.
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